The Herald

How to build a brain health pension


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TEmployers should grab the prime opportunit­y they have to support positive changes and build brain health

HROUGHOUT our working lives we routinely invest a little every month to plan for the future and help us live more comfortabl­y and securely as we age. In the same way as we prepare our financial futures, we should all prioritise our “brain health pensions”.

There are many positive steps we can take to maintain the health of our brains and help reduce our risks of developing the diseases which lead to dementia. It’s never too early, or too late, to act for the benefit of our brain and make proactive changes today.

Making healthy lifestyle changes can be challengin­g, particular­ly when life gets busy. This is where the places in which we spend a large portion of our week – our working environmen­ts – can help. Support and encouragem­ent from employers and colleagues can really help with motivation too. So, these same workplaces that help manage financial pensions also have a huge role to play in promoting a brain healthy future for the nation.

Some elements of risk are outside of our control, and there is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia. However, there are areas of life that we can focus on to help reduce our risks. If we take regular exercise, eat well, stay socially connected and keep learning new skills throughout life we can help keep our brains functionin­g at their best. We also know that limiting our exposure to alcohol and smoking, staying rested through limiting stress and getting enough sleep, and managing any existing medical conditions effectivel­y can all bring brain health benefits.

All these areas can be positively influenced by the way we set up our workplaces and structure our working day. One of the simplest ways employers can kick off a brain-healthy approach is by putting in place initiative­s that encourage everyone to get more active and spend less time sitting.

Getting active through work doesn’t have to mean setting up a work sports team or committing to running a marathon. It can be simple steps to move a bit more every day, it could be standing desks and encouragin­g “walk-ntalk” meetings and rewarding employees for active travel to and from the workplace.

A little friendly workplace competitio­n can also help with motivation as well as bring a fun and sociable side to activities, which is also great for our brains.

A new open online course has recently been launched focusing specifical­ly on the role of exercise in promoting brain heath. The course has been developed by a team of global brain health experts and is delivered alongside former internatio­nal sports stars and Olympic athletes.

For a healthier nation, that ages well, employers should grab the prime opportunit­y they have to support positive changes and build brain health.

For more on the ideas behind building a brain health pension, and the role sports and exercise can play, check out the new online course. Free and open to all at brainhealt­­se.

Neil Fullerton is Project & Communicat­ions Lead for Brain Health Scotland

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